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Monday, Jun 21, 2010
When it comes to comedy's current cyclical nature, the dork is the new dreamboat, while the good looking loser is the lynchpin for every possible punchline.

Last time anyone checked, The Bible didn’t state that the “geek” would inherit the Earth. Yet when it comes to comedy’s current cyclical nature, the dork is the new dreamboat, while the good looking loser is the lynchpin for every possible punchline. We have gone from jocks going gross-out to garner a laugh or two to feebs feeling marginalized by a society that embraces their smarts but balks at their bodies. While we are still striving to find a balance between the hotness and the guy/gal with the good personality hook-up, movies have always made the case for love conquering all—or at the very least, conquering romantic comedy expectations.


Such is the case with the innocuous if spry and sunny She’s Out of My League (new on Blu-ray from Paramount). Instead of the wimp washing out here - in this case, a mild mannered airport security worker named Kirk (Jay Baruchel) - he actually gets a chance at the girl - an incredibly sexy party planner named Molly (Alice Eve). What happens next both entertains and aggravates, the storyline so pie in the sky that bakers are getting vertigo. Yet what we eventually learn is that Ms. Maxim will embrace the socially stagnant when she discovers that they have much more heart (and a lot less headaches) to give.


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Friday, Jun 18, 2010
This is chaos by the numbers, well acted and efficiently edited, but doing little more than rattling our reality before sitting back to sell us an already known bill of goods.

Filmmakers are often praised for staying within a pristine, original aesthetic. Take Alfred Hitchcock, for example. His style was so definitive, so easy to identify and appreciate that he actually helped established the boundaries of the famed French “auteur theory”. Tim Burton is another name that rarely strays from his own unique goof Goth grandeur. Sometimes, directors excel when they leave their specific comfort zone. King of the blockbuster Steven Spielberg got little respect in the industry he helped build until he dropped the eye candy wonder and delved deep in the Holocaust with his pseudo-documentary designed Schindler’s List. But for the most part, today’s cinematic stalwarts are genre hoppers, moving from sci-fi to comedy to kids flicks with an abandon that suggests they’re more interested in working than establishing some explicit creative credentials.


Paul Greengrass is different. The British director, best known for his work on the fabulously successful Bourne films as well as the excellent 9/11 thriller United 93, only knows one approach. Call it “participatory bystander” or a “you are right there” POV, but his handheld camera conceits with their shaky, immersive elements, have been his signature since the beginning. For a while, many considered it to be groundbreaking, a way of combining the old world classicism of Hollywood action with a New Age need to be more interactive and video game savvy. Somewhere in the middle lies what Greengrass does best. But with his latest release, the pointless Iraq War film Green Zone, his visual entertainment earthquake begins to show some cracks. Even worse, the story it tells is so well known by the more learned members of the citizenry that it seems pointless to bring it all up again.


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Friday, Jun 18, 2010
This is a movie that is out to forge comedy out of character and creative situations, a feat few in today's shock jock realm fully understand.

Life is about the small stuff, the small stories between people and their place on the planet. On occasion, we catch a fleeting glimpse of the bigger picture, a far more meaningful scope from our otherwise minutia laden existence, but few of us are clued in enough to seize the opportunity. No, for most of us, it’s the daily grind, the far too early alarm, the rushed breakfast and the crazy commute to work. Toss in kids, spousal complaints, other familial fractures, aging, health, social obligations, the bedtime which never seems to arrive, and the tiny terrors that orbit around them all and the universe does seem to shrink down to a single spot on an infinite plain. For Fran Molon (Larry Dahlke), frustrated futon salesman, everything has been reduced to mattresses - quilted, comfort-top, firm, extra firm and European styled. If he can conquer bedding, he can conquer the world…well, maybe not.


Thus beginning the hilarious, heartfelt misadventures of a man, his mission, and The Mini. The title of Ron Beck’s genial indie comedy comes from an annual foot race. It’s a competition that Fran’s late father won several years ago. Now, the weak-willed employee of Bedroom Warehouse wants to use the event as a means of landing the coveted assistant manager’s promotion. Sadly, his burly good old boy boss Stan (Darrell Francis) can only envision mattress maverick - and drinking buddy - Rick (Chris Stack) as his right hand man. Eventually, they make an unusual wager - if Fran can win the Mini like his old man did, Rick will step aside and let him take the promotion. Now, with the help if his security guard best friend Dale (Jeff Stockbridge) and potential girlfriend Carmen (Angie Craft), Fran will try to overcome his fears while tapping into the inner winner that will make his sleep set dreams come true.


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Thursday, Jun 17, 2010
Leone stands as one of the movie's most influential practitioners. He took the standard language in one of the art form's most important genres and redefined it in a way that brought new insight and importance to all aspects of film.

He was born into the belly of Italian show business: his father a famed director (Roberto Roberti), his mother a certified star (Bice Waleran). By the time he was a teenager, he was very familiar with film, and took several jobs on Hollywood and homeland period productions. While helping out on the peplum epic The Last Days of Pompeii, he was forced to fill in for Mario Bonnard when the filmmaker grew ill. Suddenly, he was behind the lens, and it would be a place he’d remain for the rest of his career. Oddly enough, he only made nine credited films, but for fans of the spaghetti Western - a showy subgenre that brought grit and gravitas to the sagging cinematic staple - four of his films would remain major motion picture milestones.


Indeed, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West would both revolutionize and reign in the format’s filmic impact. They become the beginning and the end of the sagebrush switch-up. But there was more to Sergio Leone than squinting antiheroes and one-horse towns draped in quick-draw bloodshed. He was first and foremost a man of extraordinary vision, as illustrated all throughout the sensational Blu-ray box set named after his most iconic character - The Man With No Name.


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Tuesday, Jun 15, 2010
The way in which wrongs are rights, rights are wronged, and all the permutations in between are approached makes the Vengeance Trilogy a classic of its own design.

Revenge isn’t always about righting wrongs. Sometimes, it’s about wrongly feeling right. It could also stem from the right to be wrong, and of course, there’s the rare instance where how you were wronged was right all along. In fact, if you boil the spirit of vengeance down into its two main components, the inherent sense of motivational entitlement (right) is almost irretrievably linked to acts or actions viewed either objectively or subjectively as unjust, unfair, or in direct conflict with another’s sense of privilege (wrong).  As part of his brilliant dissection of all things payback, Korean director Park Chan-wook created three amazing movies - Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003), and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) - that, today, stand as the last word on retribution. But even more than that, the filmmaker flushes out all aspects of reckoning, discovering the various permutation and possibilities that come when someone feels slighted and demands recompense.


Unlike the characteristic American take on the thriller, which typically sets up very clear heroes and villains, Park’s Vengeance Trilogy (now available in beautiful Blu-ray editions from Tartan Video), paints its character portraits in facets of ambiguity and complication. In Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, a deaf man named Ryu kidnaps a young girl, hoping to use the ransom money to pay for his sister’s operation When the victim dies accidentally, her father Dong-jin goes after the people responsible. With Oldboy, a seemingly innocuous man named Dae-su is locked up in a dingy hotel room like prison for 15 years. When finally released, he plots against the man who put him there. Finally, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance has Lee Geum-ja taking the wrap for the real murderer in a high profile case. The resulting jail term, and national notoriety, lead the lady to return to society with one goal in mind - destroy the man who destroyed her life.


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